Gojira – Fortitude Review

Fortitude was certainly on my list of most anticipated 2021 releases. I was in the minority here at the AMG Worldwide Pit of Ultimate Darkness when it came to my adoration of Magma – writing about it here and including it in my Top Ten(ish) here – perhaps because the sense of loss that permeated that album resonated with me. Even though I lost my mom decades ago, that sort of thing sticks with you. But beyond that, the songs themselves were superbly written, and the band executed their vision to perfection. So with all the anticipation, why is this review two weeks late? Well, Roadrunner deem it unnecessary to send review material to lowlifes such as Angry Metal Guy, so I had to wait for release day just like everyone else, and then spend two weeks listening to Fortitude. Has it been worth it?

Gojira get things going in strong fashion, with a group of four songs that, while a long way from Mars or Sirius, show a band executing in a less extreme but still compelling manner. “Born for One Thing” is heavy and jagged, with plenty of trademark “step on a cat’s tail” squeals, and “Amazonia” adds in world music embellishments while pounding us both musically and with a compelling message about the demise of the rainforest. Their music may be evolving, but Gojira remain steadfast in their environmental messaging. The song I most often come back to is “Hold On,” which opens in hypnotic fashion with chants and atmosphere, then starts kicking our ass with a great riff1 and menacing vocals. It has a stellar arrangement, and the band sounds urgent and invigorated.

The first half of Fortitude is strong, similar in feel and style to Magma. Jean-Michele Labadie’s penchant for sliding up and down the bass neck2 wears thin after a while, but otherwise the songs are varied and interesting. Album closer “Grind” almost fits in this category as well, exploding off the start line and hitting hard but petering out at the end – much like most of the back half overall. Once we get to the two-minute interlude “Fortitude” it seems like the band has run out of both ideas and motivation. “Into the Storm” has a Magma-like feel to it, similar to “Low Lands,” but I found myself wanting more from the track. Beyond that, the songs populating the back half just don’t go anywhere, don’t move the needle at all. Filler rather than killer, as they say.

As always, there are no complaints about Gojira’s work sonically. The loud mastering job isn’t bothersome, and Andy Wallace’s mix is on point (once again, the band self-produced). Mario Duplantier has calmed down on the drum kit but still shows his capabilities on occasion, and brother Joe gets plenty of nasty tone out of his Telecaster. Christian Andreu doesn’t seem to have a lot to do on Fortitude. Lead breaks are few and far between, and the rest of the time he serves as a second rhythm guitarist. That’s perfectly fine on the songs that work, as Gojira have never been a band that shows off with pyrotechnic solos.

I’m a huge advocate of bands pushing their limits and forging new paths beyond the preconceived notions their diehard fans may have. But as the great Quincy Jones once said, there are three things that make great songs: the song, the song, and the song. You’ve got to write great material to make a great album, and that just didn’t happen consistently here. Boring? No. Riveting? Also, no. Fortitude feels more like an album of leftovers, of songs that didn’t quite work for Magma. It’s sad to say, but Gojira have crafted their least compelling album.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256kbps AAC
Label: Roadrunner Records
Websites: gojira-music.com | facebook.com/GojiraMusic
Release Worldwide: April 30th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The only riff on the album that stuck in my head.
  2. The one “lick” in his arsenal, I guess.
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